Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The Bunker Hill Mine

This map was surveyed on August 12, 1948, as part of the railroad relocation project from Middle Creek to Matheson. The Bunker Hill mine is noted as the George P. Whaley and A.M. Whaley lot.

In 1860, a miner by the name of Samuel Gaston, a resident of Middle Creek, led a party of miners consisting of: James T. Loag, Drury D. Harrill, and Soloman D. Brawstow. The later were all prominent residents of Shasta. However, some accounts refer to them as the Loag party. They started prospecting the channel of Middle Creek and they struck a lucrative vein of decomposed quartz near the mouth of the creek.
While they were at their new mining claim, Gaston and his men began the surface work, that day. A couple hours later, another party of miners arrived at the scene. This group was led by Terrance Brennan of Shasta. During my research I haven't found any documents which contains the other names of the Brennan party. The local media often referred to them as Brennan & Company. After their arrival at the mining claim, a heated argument ensued between Brennan & Company and the Gaston party. During this argument Brennan & Company objected to their work because they claimed that they were infringing upon a nearby quartz lode that they owned. They demanded the Gaston party to leave at once and never to return.
After Gaston and his men returned to their home’s, Gaston traveled into Shasta where he filed a law suit against Terrance Brennan in the Shasta County District Court, in November of that year. Gaston had reasons to believe that Brennan & Company didn’t own the mining claim. The case was tried before Judge William P. Daingerfield. 
Later that month, on November 27, 1860, the Sacramento Daily Union newspaper of Sacramento reported the following account:

"SHOOTING AFFAIR - Terry Brennan and Samuel Gaston who have been engaged in a law suit in reference to a mining claim located near Middle Creek, Shasta county, met on the claim on Monday, morning November 19th, both armed and, after an exchange of some harsh words and threats, resulted in Brennan shooting Gaston in the arm. Brennan gave himself up, says the Northern Argus, but none appearing against he was discharged." (SIC)

Over the years the media outlets in California have twisted the above shooting affray into a bloody battle between Gaston’s party and the Brennan party, at the Bunker Hill mine. The above article was derived from an article that appeared in the Northern Argus, a newspaper from Horsetown. Some accounts are bogus but the above article is the most authentic story of the Bunker Hill mine, due to its gold and lore the mine became famous.

As the trial in the District Court preceded, the disputed mining claim was brought before the miners of the Lower Springs Mining District and the Middle Creek Mining District to determine if Gaston and his men were conducting surface work or quartz lode work on December 5, 1860. They were also hoping to settle the dispute out of court. Apparently, the miners decided that they were conducting surface work and the Gaston party would eventually infringe upon the quartz lode owned by Brennan & Company. There were mining resolutions which were passed that day but they were not in favor of Gaston & Company. Gaston continued the law suit in the District Court. 

The earliest account of this mine being referred to as the Bunker Hill appears in a newspaper article which was printed on Saturday, December 8, 1860 by the Shasta Courier. It’s not clear as to who named this mining claim, but the shooting affray between Brennan and Gaston played an important part of its naming. One of the questions brought before the District Court was in regard to who had completed the most surface work at the mine, and only time would tell.

On Saturday, March 23, 1861, the Northern Argus printed the following column: 

"DISTRICT COURT - The court has been engaged during the greater part of the present week, in trying the case of Gaston against Brennan and others. It terminated on Wednesday last, the jury stood nine for plaintiffs and three for defendants. The case will be tried again during the coming week." (SIC)

During the next week, the jury in the trial voted in favor of the plaintiff on every count. Apparently, it was determined by the District Court that Gaston and his group completed the most surface work at the site. Therefore, they were the rightful owners of this disputed property. Gaston won the lawsuit which allowed him to collect damages from Brennan. 

Then on, Saturday, April 13, 1861, the Gaston party took possession of the Bunker Hill mine and they resumed their mining operations that day. Once again, Brennan & Company started another altercation with them as they rushed into the mining claim and belligerently forced the Gaston party off the property. Brennan & Company threw out all of their equipment and additional belongings they brought with them as well.

Upon their departure from the Bunker Hill mine, Gaston & Company immediately went to get the Sheriff at Shasta, and they returned with Sheriff, John S. Follansbee to Bunker Hill where Gaston and his party had the sheriff arrest the Brennan party for rioting. The Brennan party still claimed ownership of the mine even though the District Court awarded it to Gaston and his group. After the Brennan party were released from jail, Gaston and his men obtained a Writ of Resolution from the District Court of Shasta County. Due to this clause an agreement was reached by both parties who decided not to mine the claim for thirty days until the rightful owner was decided again by the District Court.

It was Judge William P. Daingerfield who officially declared ownership of this mining claim to Samuel Gaston and his party in May of 1861, which ended the Writ of Resolution. Brennan was very disappointed that he lost the potential ownership of the Bunker Hill mine. Lawyers for Brennan’s party motioned for a new trial to be granted but the motion was denied by Judge Daingerfield.

Gaston and his men established the Bunker Hill Company, naming themselves after their mine. Each of them owned shares within the mining company. In April of 1862, the Bunker Hill Company were steadily mining and extracting gold from their placer mine at an lucrative rate of six to ten pounds per day. They employed four men to assist them in their claim. The Shasta Courier, a newspaper from Shasta, reported the following account on Saturday, May 3, 1862:

"BUNKER HILL - On last Thursday, this claim paid ninety-three ounces, and it is improving continually."

Then in, October of 1862, a notice was printed by the Shasta Courier that claimed Brawstow was selling his interest in the Bunker Hill mine. This was a chance for others to buy his shares within this mining company, and the new shareholder profited very well. 

During May of 1863, prospectors Hoy and Kennedy struck a rich vein of ore on land adjoining the Bunker Hill mine. The discovery yielded remarkable results which were heralded by the local media in Shasta. Hoy & Kennedy cleaned up nicely as it was reported that they were making between $900 and $1,700 per day with the employment of three miners extracting the ore near the Bunker Hill mine. The local media opined that this vein was a continuation of the Bunker Hill mine lead.

A ditch was dug from Middle Creek and miners extended it into the Bunker Hill mine to help them convey water into their mining site to assist them in the extraction of gold. If a large abundance of water was available then mining was a regular occurrence on the property. The Bunker Hill Company negotiated a contract with the Spring Creek stamp mill to crush its rock to obtain the ore. It was surface rock that they were crushing. After the deal was made they began delivering large quantities of rock to the nearby stamp mill. 

Two years later, the Bunker Hill Company was still actively perusing their claim. In February of 1865, their miners struck a new vein of gold ore. It was reported by the Shasta Courier newspaper that: "four pans of rock from which, when crushed in a hand mortar yielded twenty-four ounces and eight pennyweights. It still continues to pay nearly the proportion."

Nearly a month later, the Bunker Hill Company continued making progress on their placer mine as they extracted forty ounces in two days by washing pay dirt. The ground contained an abundant of ore in profitable quantity to be extracted by their miners. As the mine kept revealing its secrets they rapidly stayed in production that year. In January of 1866, after a run of a two week period the mine yielded between fifteen and sixteen hundred dollars in gold. The mine continued to produce lucrative ore. There were no adits, shafts or tunnels on the property it was still an active placer mine, not a quartz mine.

Aside from washing pay dirt at the mining site. The miners extracted the ore from a soft slate in a thin strata of decomposed quartz as well. Their miners struck gold in deep pockets of quartz, and located quartz walls with veins of gold on the property. 

In 1872, the construction on the California & Oregon Railroad, a division of the Central Pacific Railroad, finished bringing the railway north to Redding. The construction would not resume north for another ten years. During the interim, in December of 1874, Drury D. Harrill applied to the United States Government for a patent which was granted at a later date for the Bunker Hill mine. After a ten year hiatus, the construction of the railroad resumed north from Redding in 1882.

That year, Chinese immigrants who were employed by the railroad made an amazing discovery of gold pieces valued between $15,000-$20,000 at the Bunker Hill mine, it wasn’t reported by the local media about how or why these gold pieces were left. At that time, the Bunker Hill mine was abandoned. However, this discovery brought a renewed interest to the mine and it was developed again.

In 1896, the Bunker Hill mine was owned by John Varner Scott of Shasta, a Mrs. Carmichael of Oakland, and Mrs. Emily Loag of New York (the widow of James T. Loag.) A man named William Albert Pryor was an overseer of Mrs. Loag’s shares of the mine. Pryor's position granted him access to the mining property and mining rights.

In December of 1900, the Bunker Hill Company employed one man and an armed guard at the mining site to protect their property, because the mine began yielding  $3,000 per day. It’s days of being a lucrative placer mine were ending as the owners wanted to transform the placer mine into a quartz mine with adits, tunnels and shafts. Eventually, additional men were hired by the above company to do that for them.

The first shaft was dug to eight feet below the surface of the earth and a new tunnel was dug in near the hillside to the new shaft. While the miners were digging out and constructing the new tunnel a new vein of gold was discovered by them.

During the year 1915, the mining property included sixty acres of patented land and 460 feet of tunnel. The mine was owned by William A. Pryor, the Shasta druggist, and a man by the surname of Logan. According to G. Chester Brown of the California State Mining Bureau the Bunker Hill mine included a north and south vein which was five feet wide with 200 feet of drifts. Pryor and Logan were working the mine together while they were producing fine specimens of ore.

Eventually, the quartz mine was abandoned again, and during the 1940s, it was relocated again. Miners began redeveloping the mining site and extracting the ore from it. Then the production stopped. The last owner’s of the property was George Whaley and his wife A.M. Whaley of San Francisco, according to a 1948 map of the property which was surveyed for the railroad relocation project from Middle Creek to Matheson.

At the Bunker Hill mine there are remains of an old water well which has been plugged, a rock retaining wall, a plugged shaft and a few fig and grape trees. Along the creek nearest to the mining site there are a few spots indicating that the miners tried probing while miners dug for gold. From historical references it’s learned that drifts and adits were made with underground openings (now plugged). If you go take water with you on a hot day.

The unmarked trailhead to the Bunker Hill mine is located just north of the ribbon bridge that spans the Sacramento River on the Keswick side of the Sacramento River Trail. From this trailhead the trail guides you in about 0.2 miles from the Sacramento River Trail near the mouth of Middle Creek. The trail is a moderate hike into the mine. Another mine called the Compton mine exists north of here at Rock Creek just off the Sacramento River Trail, if you know where to look.

Above: The superintendent of the mine more than likely lived near this plugged water well of the Bunker Hill mine. This photograph was taken by Jeremy Tuggle on June 13, 2015.

Above: One of the plugged shafts of the Bunker Hill mine. This photograph was taken by Jeremy Tuggle on June 13, 2015.

Above: One of the plugged shafts of the Bunker Hill mine. This photograph was taken by Jeremy Tuggle on June 13, 2015.

Above: Miners tried to probe here but without luck they moved on to better diggings. This photograph was taken by Jeremy Tuggle on June 13, 2015.

Above: A Fig tree at the Bunker Hill mine, a rock marking the spot in memory of someone. This photograph was taken by Jeremy Tuggle on June 13, 2015.

Above: Grape trees at the historic site of the Bunker Hill mine. This photograph was taken by Jeremy Tuggle on June 13, 2015.

Above: A rock retaining wall against the trail into the gold mine. This photograph was taken by Jeremy Tuggle on June 13, 2015.

Above: The headstone of the original locator of the Bunker Hill mine, Samuel Gaston (1834-1909). He was interred into the Redding Memorial Park. Gaston was a native of Livingston County, New York. He arrived in Shasta County and settled at Middle Creek in 1852. He was a miner. At a later date, Gaston relocated from Middle Creek to Elko, Nevada where he served as a deputy Sheriff for a number of years. After that, he returned to Shasta County and died in the county hospital. This photograph was taken by Jeremy Tuggle on June 19, 2018.


Shooting Affair - The Sacramento Daily Union newspaper, November 27, 1860

Mining In Shasta - The Shasta Courier newspaper, Saturday, April 26, 1862

Bunker Hill - The Shasta Courier newspaper, Saturday, May 3, 1862

A Chance - The Shasta Courier newspaper of Shasta, October 4, 1862

Rich Claim - The Shasta Courier newspaper, Saturday, May 9, 1863

The Mines Played Out - The Shasta Courier newspaper, Saturday, February 11, 1865

Bunker Hill Co. - The Shasta Courier newspaper, Saturday, March 4, 1865

Bunker Hill - The Shasta Courier newspaper, Saturday, April 29, 1865

Bunker Hill - The Shasta Courier newspaper, Saturday, January 6, 1866

Bunker Hill - The Shasta Courier newspaper, Saturday, June 9, 1866

Bunker Hill - The Shasta Courier newspaper, Saturday, June 16, 1866

D.D. Harrill - The Shasta Courier newspaper, Saturday, December 5, 1874

Bunker Hill - The Shasta Courier newspaper, Saturday, October 20, 1877

Bunker Hill - The Shasta Courier newspaper, Saturday, February 29, 1896 

1896 California Voters Registration

A Story of Bunker Hill Mine - Sausalito News, December 15, 1900

Mines and Mineral Resources of Shasta County, Siskiyou County, and Trinity County, by G. Chester Brown, ©1915 published by California State Printing Office. Page 37.

Place Names of Shasta County by Gertrude Steger, published by La Siesta Press, ©1966.


Mines and Mineral Resources of Shasta County, ©1974, Philip A. Lyden & J.C. O'Brien

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